An educated assistant brings much to an integrative practice

From case-taking to liaising with clients to offering additional therapies, there are many things an assistant can do to make herself indispensable to a clinic.

When I first began working with Dr. Beverly London, I was an aspiring veterinary student. After experiencing firsthand the swift recovery of animals with slim chances of survival, I realized my passion was shifting away from veterinary college. The work I was doing was already filled with personal and theoretical expansion, extensive and profound relationships, and the reward of returning and enhancing the health of our beloved animals. I started to see a path for myself and my future.

Of course, I didn’t get there overnight.

Working with an integrative veterinarian meant acquiring new skills in both animal and human interactions. I learned to anticipate Dr. London’s skillful insight and direction as well as the patient’s response. As she was taking the history, I would pay close attention to the animal so I could alert her to any fear or aggression, or share my intuitive sense of where the animal was hurting. Because holistic treatment aims to address the cause behind the symptoms, I learned to look for these from within the horse, dog or cat. I observed the individual personalities and needs of each patient independent of all others and learned to assist in providing a treatment suitable to that particular, multifaceted being.

The wide-ranging theoretical and scientific information and unfamiliar concepts I absorbed ultimately expanded my knowledge in many other areas of life and opened the door to exploring new avenues of innovation in veterinary health. I realized I wanted to spend my life rehabilitating horses through this gentle and effective approach to healing. This led to a new business training horses and becoming an equine podiatrist. This is something all technicians and assistants should keep in mind – education and exploring new options can lead to expanded jobs within the veterinary clinic, or to being a provider of ancillary services for the practice.

In my new role, I became part of an overall team approach among disciplines to help restore the health of animals. I saw many pet owners passionately willing to try a multitude of approaches in order to better care for their animals. As a result, many also began to see the benefits of incorporating the concepts and practices of holistic treatment into their own lives. Being able to take part in so many positive changes became the ultimate rewarding experience. The long days, extensive travels and unpredictable Michigan weather only add to my experience as a holistic veterinary assistant. Working with Dr. London enriched my life on a multitude of inspirational and educational levels and continues to do so today.

What a well-educated veterinary assistant can do

As my experience shows, there are many ways in which a well-educated assistant can provide critical input to an integrative practice. He/she can:

  1. Begin the extensive case-taking needed for evaluations, thereby improving the practice’s efficiency as well as the bottom line. Because the assistant helps collect the information, he or she can also begin the evaluation process during follow-up exams, or ask critical questions when clients phone.
  2. Serve as a surrogate during sessions using applied kinesiology1, an effective tool when making decisions on supplements and treatments for ill animals. While clients can also be surrogates, they may be skeptical or too unhealthy to be effective. Having someone who is clear on the methodology and able to stay grounded increases the accuracy of the testing.
  3. Observe animals for reactions. Often, the veterinarian’s safety depends on the assistant’s ability to pay close attention to a patient during electro-acupuncture, adjustments, etc. When working with horses, my job is to control the animals and watch for signs of danger to the veterinarian. As an example, I have pulled Dr. London to safety when a horse was pushing her off balance.
  4. Realizing a new paradigmPromote calm. Maintaining a deep sense of calm and quiet can help patients respond both safely and deeply to any treatments offered.
  5. Help liaise with clients. Concerned clients often have many questions they want answered right away, and that can be distracting to the veterinarian. By initiating a conversation with clients, I can begin the process of gathering information and keep things on track.
  6. Save time for the veterinarian. For example, I spent significant time learning about the Standard Process supplement Dr. London often uses. I can now answer a client’s questions while Dr. London proceeds with other treatments.
  7. Offer additional skills and treatments. When you are inspired by a particular holistic approach, you can study it and offer it in the practice. Massage, Reiki, Healing Touch for Animals and others can become an additional income stream for the practice, or a separate business for the technician.

A word of advice – finding the right boss for this close-knit relationship is worth the effort. Some may not be open-minded enough to accept the various integrative approaches a holistic practitioner may utilize in a practice. You may have to interview at several clinics to find one willing to use your education and experience in alternative modalities to the fullest potential, both for the practice.

1DeStefano, Carl. “Applied Kinesiology”